Tag Archives: Growing

AB Ludvig Svennson’s Climate Screens Give Greenhouse Growers More Control

12 proBy working with one of the world’s leading manufacturers of textile climate and environmental solutions, Agra Tech , Inc. of Pittsburg, CA is able to provide its clients with the ability to control their greenhouse growing applications, regardless of where they’re located or what they’re growing. A fourth generation family business run by siblings Anne and Anders Ludvigson, AB Ludvig Svennson (LS) provides a wide range of Climate Screens that are used to control the climates in greenhouses all over the world.

With headquarters in Kinna, Sweden and with daughter companies located in China, Holland, South Korea and the United States, LS makes energy fabrics that achieve the entire gamut of climate control, including reflecting the sun, blacking it out and diffusing its light evenly, just to name a few. By refining and further developing its Climate Screens over the years, LS has been able to provide more efficient shading properties, greater energy savings and thereby creating a more favorable growing climate for greenhouse growers.

Mauricio Manotas is the President of LS in the U.S. He has been spearheading his company’s operations in North America since the company came to this country in 1996. Manotas has been able to see the Climate Screens industry change rapidly as the technology has progressed. “It’s exciting to be working with some of the country’s leading greenhouse growers at LS,” Mantas said. “On the East Coast, there is more vegetable production and in the West, we’re selling more Climate Screens to companies that are doing research and development and growing flowers, for example. Our products allow our customers to control every aspect of the climate in their greenhouse and that’s why they can guarantee quality crops year round.”

LS features five different Climate Screens. Each has its own distinct purpose, depending on what you’re growing and where you’re located. To suit different growing conditions, the company’s Climate Screens come in more than 100 different variants. They are divided into five families according to their main features, which makes the selection process easier and more accurate.

The main five types of Climate Screens made by LS are

Harmony: Scatters sunlight evenly

Luxous: Provides maximum daylight

Obscura: Total blackout

Solara: Highly reflective/open for ventilation

Tempa: Uses aluminum strips to maximize energy savings

Manotas has been working with Agra Tech, Inc. since day one and appreciates the relationship. “We’ve developed a great relationship with John and Eloise Pound at Agra Tech and I know they were working with LS long before I came onboard. We’re a family business too, so ATI has a special place in our hearts. We’ve worked with them on a lot of projects over the years and we really respect their knowledge and experience. They’re a valuable distributor of our products and we’re proud to be working with them.”

LS just doesn’t sell its Climate Screens—they also bring a ton of their expertise to the table as well, according to Manota. LS and Manota are adept at working with greenhouse growers of all sizes—from 100-200 square feet all the way to enormous 40-acre greenhouses.

“Everything is custom made, so we work project-to-project. Each scenario is completely different, so you can’t ever take a ‘one size fits’ all approach,” he explained. “We analyze every scenario carefully and then we advise our customers about what they require. In many cases, the grower doesn’t know what they need, so we weigh all of the factors—the geography, the kinds of crops to grow and the type of greenhouse they’re using. We study their operation and look at it objectively. That way we come up with a blueprint in the form of a 6-7 page document that makes recommendations and offers them what we feel in an ideal solution. There is competition in this business, so we use our knowledge and experience to differentiate us from the rest. We want all of our ‘climate partners’ to maximize their yield and get the best crops they can, so that’s what we do in each situation. By setting our customers up for success, we hope that they will work for us on an ongoing basis, as they grow and experience continuing success.”

Let’s Meet Agra Tech’s Jim Bergantz, Sales Engineer

JWB_pic

Jim Bergantz working on a new project.

 

Q: Jim, please tell us about your background when it relates to farming, agriculture and greenhouse farming?

JB: “I literally grew up in a greenhouse and purchased my parents’ retail nursery and wholesale/retail growing operation right after graduating from college. That’s where I found my passion in growing bedding plants, native trees, shrubs and poinsettias and learned there is no substitute for getting your hands dirty and working hard. I loved the challenges the business presented;  meeting greenhouse heating and cooling requirements in the extreme heat and cold of foothills weather, managing a seasonal staff, adjusting cultural variables to make sure plants were blooming or colored-up to meet the demands of our customers at holiday times. To promote our business, I developed a weekly radio show which aired for one hour every Saturday and afforded me the opportunity to interface with interesting experts in our field.”

Q: The life’s journey that brought you to work for Agra Tech is inspiring. Please share it with us.

JB:  “Life events prompted the closing of our nursery and I became involved in a different line of work. Though I left horticulture for a time, it never left me.  Our local high school here in Angels Camp, CA has a stellar agriculture program which has won several national awards. Every day I passed the school’s empty greenhouse and decided I’d like to become involved in getting the beautiful facility up and running. With a green light from the Ag faculty, I mounted a volunteer effort to raise the funds necessary to get the cooling system operational, installing an energy curtain system and high tech environmental controls which I knew were essential for the success of a new program. I learned the greenhouse had been manufactured by Agra Tech, Inc., one of the world’s leading manufacturers of commercial greenhouses. Ray Pound, who had originally constructed the structure, was instrumental in providing the technical advice and hands-on support I needed. As more and more people in our community joined to support my efforts, our scope grew. In all, we were able to raise over $30,000 in donated funds to create a self-sustaining program to educate students in how to raise a healthy crop and bring it to market. I enjoyed this volunteer effort so much that I went on to earn my credential as an agriculture educator. Shortly after the greenhouse was up and running, I found myself suddenly very unemployed due to corporate downsizing.  That’s when I phoned Ray Pound at Ag Con again; this time to ask him if he knew of anyone with a job opening. He suggested I phone his brother John who hired me at Agra Tech soon after our first meeting.”

Q: You have a higher purpose to be involved in this industry and I can tell you’re very driven and passionate about your job at Agra Tech. Please explain.

JB: “I strive to make information about agriculture and horticulture accessible to anyone who wants to learn. Education is exciting to me–both when I am sharing information and when I am receiving it.  There are opportunities for me to learn every day and I love being part of this dynamic industry.”

Q: Name several of the more noteworthy projects you’ve been involved in during your employment at ATI?

JB: “Each project we work on is unique and presents site-specific requirements.  There may be nothing more exciting than to stand inside a newly-constructed greenhouse that meets the requirements of our client.   Among the highlights, it’s been my privilege to work on the positive pressure commercial greenhouse for the Lincove Research Facility and on the insect exclusion greenhouse for Willits and Newcomb.”

Q: What is your title at Agra Tech and what is your job description?

JB: “As a sales engineer at Agra Tech, it’s my job to make sure the client has the information necessary to make decisions pertinent to the construction of greenhouses to meet his needs.  It is also important to be available to the customer long after his project has been completed. I enjoy this interface with our customers and make myself readily accessible to them in order to facilitate excellent customer service and satisfaction.”

Q: Tell us what your average work week is like.

JB: “There really is no “average” work week here at Agra Tech. My day is dictated by the needs of our customers whether those needs require me to be in the office or on the road. I travel extensively so that I am able to be of service to my customers.”

Q: How do you think this industry will change within the next 10-20 years?

JB: “In the future, I see Agra Tech at the center of advancements in controlled environmental agriculture.  Insect exclusion structures will continue to be vitally important for the health of plants and the industry at large.  Our company strives to provide the best possible solutions for its customers.”

Q: Tell us some personal things about you, Jim.

JB: “I enjoy my life in the rural community of Murphys, CA, where I have a deep interest in the native vegetation, geology and wildlife that makes the area so naturally beautiful. My wife is the secretary at an elementary school and writes a column about foothills gardening for Sierra Lodestar. My daughter Jill is Director of Sales for an engineering/manufacturing firm and my other daughter Jane is a pediatric nurse who cares for children who have undergone organ transplantation.”

Q: Describe why you like working for a family business like Agra Tech.

JB: “I am passionate about my work at Agra Tech because it satisfies my creativity, allows building relationships with clients and gives me the opportunity to facilitate sales and construction of world-class agricultural structures to the industry’s finest growers. What can I say about working for the Pound family?  They are excellent employers who appreciate their employees and are proud of their business.  They are creative, innovative thinkers striving to create solutions to 21st century needs. It’s extremely exciting to work for such a dynamic company!”

Q:What are your personal and professional goals?

JB:  “I love my job and strive to continue learning from my customers on each project we work together to develop and construct. In the future I look toward continuing to move ATI and agriculture-at-large forward with the advent of new concepts and solutions for our industry. These are exciting times! On a personal level, I continue work in my community to sow “Seeds of Kindness” in our schools. Over the past several years, this effort has grown to include all 22 schools in our county. It’s a remarkable program which affords me the opportunity to work with an inspiring group of educators and students. We help children and adults to focus on the connections we have with one another and how we, as individuals, may influence others in a positive way.”

Jim-25

Jim sampling a tomato grown in an Agra Tech greenhouse

Written by Ed Attanasio

Interview with Hydroponics Pioneer Dr. Howard Resh

Dr Resh showing NFT hydroponic system

Dr Resh showing NFT hydroponic system

DR. Howard M. Resh, PhD is a universally known hydroponics researcher, author and practitioner and one of the world’s true pioneers in the field of hydroponics. He has incorporated commercial greenhouses from Agra Tech, Inc., one of the world’s leading manufacturers of greenhouses and considered a leader in the field, into several of his projects over the years and was kind enough to be interviewed for this article.

Well-known for implementing and managing commercial hydroponics operations worldwide, Dr. Resh has been the pivotal force behind successful hydroponics farming ventures in Taiwan, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, in addition to his efforts throughout North America. While he was a graduate student at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, B.C beginning in the early 1970s, Dr. Resh developed plant cultural techniques and three-part nutrient formulations for the growing of vegetable crops in greenhouses, many of which are designed and built by Agra Tech, Inc.

In 1999, Dr. Resh started a hydroponics farm on the island of Anguilla, B.W.I, in the Eastern Caribbean where he farms today, featuring an Agra Tech commercial greenhouse to grow more than 60 types of vegetables and other plants. Since 2007, Dr. Resh and his colleagues have been intensely studying hydroponic greenhouse issues in temperate and tropical regions on the planet, including Central and South America, Mexico, the Caribbean and Hawaii.

Known as an urban horticulturist, Dr. Resh strongly believes that progressive farming can take place at a high level of productivity in even the most crowded cities in the world. He acts as a consultant on a wide range of commercial hydroponic projects and has received numerous accolades for his work, lauded for being an author and an amazing educator at the university level. Many of his students have gone on to excel in the hydroponics greenhouse farming industry all over the globe, and utilizing greenhouses made by Agra Tech, in many instances.

In mid-1999, Resh became Hydroponic Greenhouse Farm Manager for the first Hydroponic Farm associated with a tourist resort: the Cuisinart Resort & Spa, in Anguilla, B.W.I. in the northeastern Caribbean. The project, which uses multiple greenhouses manufactured by Agra Tech, Inc., the Cuisinart hydroponic farm is the only one in the world owned by a resort growing its own fresh salad crops and herbs exclusively for the resort.

We sat down recently with Dr. Resh to find out what he’s currently working on while maintaining and developing new crops at the Cuisinart hydroponics greenhouse farm.

Q: Hello doctor. What are some of the newest and most intriguing developments within the hydroponics greenhouse growing field that you’re working on?

DR:  It’s definitely an exciting time within this industry. Now the hydroponics culture is being applied under many extreme conditions that were never even remotely considered by anyone before. For example, hydroponics is being performed successfully at a space station under zero gravity using water culture systems, and implemented in the growing of fresh salad crops in Antarctica.

Q:  I know you’re working on the creation of hydroponic farms on rooftops of buildings in cities?

DR: Yes, it’s a concept that isn’t new. We created a rooftop farm in Taipei, Taiwan in the mid-1980s. We’re very excited about these rooftop farms, because they can be used in the middle of some of the busiest and most crowded municipalities in the world. This is one of my real passions right now, because it is green and can help city dwellers to get fresh produce that is local, regional and sustainable.

 Q: People of all backgrounds are entering this industry and encountering great success, in many cases. Why do you think it’s grown at an explosive rate especially during the last decade?

DR: Hydroponics is a very unique form of agriculture that can be applied either on a very simple basic level all the way to extremely sophisticated scenarios, from a backyard hobbyist to growing crops using hydroponics in a space station, for example. People from former in-ground farming backgrounds have embraced this form of farming and are purchasing commercial greenhouses from companies such as Agra Tech in California. The keys to this form of farming are climate control, quality crops and more production, as opposed to conventional types of farming. It has opened the industry to a whole new group of participants and has introduced more science into the art of hydroponic growing. Also, it’s a green approach–saving water, soil and electricity in many cases—so people gravitate toward it for these reasons too.

Q:  I understand that you’re using Agra Tech greenhouses in your Cuisinart hydroponic farm?

DR: Yes, we do use a greenhouse from Agra Tech, designed to withstand hurricanes, because that is an issue here in Anguilla. We grow cherry and beef tomatoes, radishes, basil, large plants, European cucumbers, red, yellow and orange peppers, all types of lettuce, micro greens, mint, thyme, rosemary, lavender and everything we need for the hotels and restaurants at the resort. For more information and photos of this farm, you can visit my web site at: www.howardresh.com. The guests here appreciate the fresh vegetables and it’s been a very successful farm.

Q: What is the most innovative hydroponic greenhouse farming project you’re working on now?

DR: Farms like this one here in Anguilla will soon be sprouting up all over the world, I believe. I’m presently working on one in Mexico and another in Puerto Rico. Hopefully these two will be happening later this year.

Q: All kinds of people are getting into this business (retirees, military veterans, job changers, etc.) and making substantial profits. Why do you think so many former non-farmers are attracted to these hydroponic farms in greenhouse environments?

DR:  It appeals to a lot of retirees, especially if they’re semi-technical people, like engineers, because there is a lot of engineering involved in hydroponic farming. It turns them on and they respect the fact that they’re creating food, that’s a big aspect of it. If this new generation of farmers can find the proper markets to sell their crops, then that makes it more likely that they will succeed. It all comes down to where the farm is and what the markets in that area are willing to pay. This industry has become so much more sophisticated and it has changed a lot, due to the technology. Now it’s all about sustainable yielding, which means these new farmers want to generate their own electricity with solar cells and conserve energy more and more.

By Ed Attanasio